A new year has dawned, and a new year always begins with hope even if (or especially if) the preceding year was a disappointment. New projects that generate optimism and the likelihood of positive change provide a jolt to a new year, and in 2018 Pittsfield will unveil a long-awaited, much-debated new building that should change the educational landscape of the city and the Berkshires.
The new, $121 million Taconic High School, which constitutes what is assuredly the largest construction project in Pittsfield since Pittsfield High School in the 1930s, is on schedule to open in the fall. The concept emerged in the talking stages about a dozen years ago, and the city- and state-funded project is poised to make the school a reality. The state-of-the-art building will enable Taconic, with its traditional vocational focus, to target education in advanced manufacturing, health care, the sciences and other fields that are now included in the contemporary definition of vocational.
This focus will be a boon to local businesses, particularly manufacturers, who have long sought a more qualified local pool of workers to fill desirable, well-paying jobs in cutting edge fields. This should make Taconic attractive to students around the Berkshires, bringing them into a city and school system that have been losing so many to other schools through school choice.
While it is not scheduled to open until 2019, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's $30 million, four-building, multi-use complex will be taking shape on the Tanglewood grounds during the course of 2018. Rising on the top of the lawn overlooking Ozawa Hall, it is the largest project at Tanglewood since that concert hall opened in 1994.
The complex will expand programs at the Tanglewood Music Center, which trains about 150 young musicians each year, and will serve as the home of the new Tanglewood Learning Center, which will offer cultural enrichment programs targeted for visitors. Significantly, the complex, which is to include a small performance center, will be used year-round on grounds that have been open only during the summer months. That represents a strong commitment to Stockbridge, Lenox and the Berkshires on the part of the BSO, which is funding the project entirely.
The $65 million expansion project that made the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams among the largest modern museums on the planet constituted the major Berkshire construction project to be completed in 2017. It was followed in the local museum world by what could be termed a deconstruction project by the Berkshire Museum, which sought to sell 40 artworks with an estimated value of $60 million to address a financial shortfall and finance an ambitious "New Vision."
That sale is tied up in litigation as the new year begins, and whatever the ultimate resolution, the museum will need to restore good will after a controversy that has raged for months throughout the Berkshires and throughout the entire art world. The ultimate success of the museum, in whatever form it is constituted, is of great importance to Pittsfield and the Berkshires, and that will in essence constitute another building project in 2018.